July 24, 2007

About Color and Planning

OK....I admit it....I really never, ever took the time to either create color palettes or plan any garden in my life before. I'm not really a planner, more of an, well, artist, I guess. I like to believe that I act spontaneously to influences....that brilliance just will happen, as if a devine creative gift such as being a designer, allows one the freedom to create....randomly. But I was wrong. With age, I have to admit that this theory of simply spewing out stuff generally results in, well, spew. Maybe that theory worked before there was SO MUCH to influence us...maybe it worked, let's say, in another period...like victorian, or arts & crafts, or even modernism in the seventies......but today, when jsut about anything goes, and when most everything is available to most everyone, all at the same time, there is a much greater risk of chaos, visually speaking, anyway. Random influence is dangerous, we all must stop it.

So welcome to some of the beds this year, where I am excercising restraint. I'm calling it ' practicing thoughtful research' ...and yes...it's still, quite creative, and even artistic since now, I am actually following a well-thought out and well researched color palette, but experimenting with various plant materials that may or may not be combined together normally. There are fine lines between such rules, since one must follow a foundational structure that limits plant material such as exposure, hardiness, etc....but since I happen to have a greenhouse, and I am more than willing to let a tropical plant die in the garden, as well as choose to dig it up in two months and lug a tub into the greenhouse for the winter, I might as well play with what new options I really have. I also considered, or tossed aside such things as texture and provenance - (i.e. tropical plants may or may not work with temperate evergreens, for instance). This experimentation doesn't come easy, it helps, I feel, to have a horticultural knowledge as well as an artistic one....yet these rules are ment to be broken at time, it sometimes is painfully clear when one experiments without prior knowledge. (in chef-speak- the whole cilantro may or may not go with cinnamon sort of thing).

So I made some color rules. First, I wanted to go beyond what I was seeing in the trendy gardening magazines, or what was being suggested for combination at my local garden centers. SInce I am first, an artist, color, naturally comes, well, naturally to me. Now, granted, not everyone likes my style and taste. But I wanted to also avoid the BIG rules that one often see's women following simply because it's all they know....."I want blue hydrangeas at my wedding"...."I can only plant blue and silver in my english garden" or "I must have sunflowers since I saw them on a cover of martha Stewart Living". Now, chill out, believe me, I am porbobly a greater fan of Martha Stewart that any of you could dare to be, but you must also understand that most likely, Martha herself is beyond sunflowers and blue hydrangeas at this moment....instead, most likely, she is experimenting and discovering such new plant trends as Crocosmeas and Corydalis. One shoud choose a plant because of more peprsonal reasons that how your neighbors will think of you.....sure, I love blue hydrangeas, as a beach house, in front of a bungalo, they have thier place. Choose plant material for the location.

July 16, 2007

On being a plant snob.

Daylilly - 'Siloam June Bug'
I never really think of myself as someone who grows flowers. I mean, I hate it when friends at work and others say something like, " Oh, You'd like it there, there are lots of nice flowers!", or, Have fun in the Alps, photographing your flowers!". I suppose, to anyone with a passion, who deeply emerses themself into either a pastime, or an interest, it them becomes so much more than a mere hobby. Maybe it just feels trivial when people refer to ones obsession as a mere interest, that's makes one so mad. I mean, how dare they not understand that a daylilly is NOT a true lily?!! Come one! MAybe that's why I could never run a garden center......I couldn't deal with posie pushers! (oops, that's not very nice!).

Tru Lily hybrid- 'Ariadne' (downfacing asiatic)
I mean, I couldn't deal with uninformed customers asking for red geraniums and pink and blue perennials for thier garden that will bloom all summer. Call me a garden snob, sure, but I prefer it that way. WhenI open a garden center, oops, I mean if I ever opened a garden center (first of all, it would'nt be called a garden center), then I would target two consumers . First, the experienced gardener, the hortiphile....and second, only those who are curious about learning, for I would inform them on what to buy, and why. For instance, I would break the rules......not sell Stella D'Oro daylillies just because everyone would want then since they see them at Home Depot or planted infront of the gas station....I would have a section dedicated to the best performing miniature everblooming daylillies that come from the worlds best breeders........and then have didactic panels with photos, or examples of what they look like, or perhaps a sample garden.

Most any plant, or tree, or annual that you see at a major garden center, has a counterpart that is most likely better, newer, or older, more classic and forgotton, or simply unknown to the masses. Most gardencenter owners are businessmen, who are more interested in selling then inspiring. Sure, it's a business, but the few, the very few who are both passionate horticulturists AND businessmen, and perhaps,even designers, are the best of the bunch. And those of you who know them, know what I mean.

My idea of a gardencenter, or nursery, will not becoome reality, for my vision of a garden shop would most likely not succeed, unless perhaps it was in a major metro area, NYC, Boston, Nantucket, etc.......for now, I shall continue to focus on what I do at my day job (GO transformers!) And leave the blue tecophilea and pots of South African pink Agapanthus (yeah, I have one now from Australia) to the hollows of my mind.

July 9, 2007

True Blue, it's true.

It used to be held by morning glories, then, but Forget-me-nots, but today, the title-holder for more-in-demand flower, goes to not to these blue beauties, but to Hydrangeas, of course, the blue forms.

Wherever blue appears in our natural world we humans are impressed. One can’t help but be, since we are wired this way. Blue, true blue, the color or the sky, is a complex layering of phenmomenon such as refracted sun-light, chemicals, pigments, sugars, flavones and compounds such as anthocyanin, that when all combines weaves together to produce the magical express that we all sky blue. Heck, even the sky is blue, and when one really thinks about it……how many things on earth besides the sky, are found in this shade of blue? Even in our modern world, we cannot create a paint color that mimics this color phenomenon, nor print this color. It has depth, shimmer, and atomically is special with it’s unique properties. Blue, when it appears in flowers, or feathers, behave more like a crystal than many other pigments. If reflects and refracts light.

Japanese chemists are attempting to identify just what exactly happens within a plant, that can have it achieve thiese amazing effects, no surprise here, since Hydrangea that bloom blue, hail from Japan, think Nikko Blue. Five years ago, while visiting there, Joe and I we’re treated by our friend Masashi to a dinner at a temple that was dedicated to the Blue Hydrangea, over looking the china sea, the 600 year old building was surrounded by tall bamboo forests and underplantings of sky blue hydrangea. The mean featured blue hydrangea themes in creative expressions, even sushi with cubes of blue geletin on top we’re served.

In New England, our mild winter rewarded us with an abundance of Blue Hydrangea. Being situated one hour west of Boston, a snowy winter may allow us to get some bloom, since the branches are protected near the base, but this year, it seemed hopeless, since we had only a few inches of snow. What we didn’t get was the below zero temps, so there was little if any winterkill, and a nice, slow spring where there were no surprise frosts. Hence, blue hydrangea to swim in.

Also, last year, I decided, on a whim, to plant some seed from the German seed company, Jelitto of award-winning Pacific Blue Delphiniums, one of my favorite, since the blue tint is actually even more sky blue that morning glories and hydrangeas. Almost forgotten, the seedlings were planted out in a garden out back, and upon returning from our Swiss trek, found the 6 and 7 foot stems knocked down from a thunderstorm, but in good condition, and in full bloom. So I picked them for the house.

Some of us plant snobs may groan at the mention of blue hydrangeas, since they are sometimes as popular and as in demand as red geraniums in our post Martha world, where one year one must have old world roses, and the next, gerbera, and the next, blue hydrangea….in a way, they are as branded commercially as ceramic fairies and princesses, but I have to admit, I still like them, in fact, love them, when used in the right location. Hydrangea speaking, there are far more interesting species and forms to choose from, but for blueness, go with a few.

Last week while hiking high the Swiss Alps, well, actually, in the dolomites in Val Gardena Italy, we did find a few buns of the precious alpine plant, Eritricium nanum, a relative of the Myosotis, or the Forget-me-not, that grows in dense, buns, nestled in crevices in limestone peaks above 10,000. Rare, completely in demand if one can risk their life to get a shot, these plants are always a reward for the daring. I was too chicken to shoot it, but just risked his life to crawl out on a ledge to steal this shot of a plant just starting to come into bloom.